Businessman and radio host Khalil Revan strongly believes that the day of the Parliamentary Election, commonly called “Election Day”, must be a National Holiday to protect the dignity and integrity of the country’s election process. He contends that by making the day a National Holiday, it ensures that every eligible citizen gets a fair and equal opportunity to vote and participate in the electoral process without undesired influence, prohibition, reservation, or discrimination.
“Far too often we have heard the cries of workers on election day that their employer inhibits their voting times and opportunities. Many times, workers are not given the full 4 hours to vote or even participate in the election process. Because the law stipulates that all employees must have at least 4 hours to vote, employers insist that the employees voting time be scheduled at the end of the work day. Consequently, many workers are left standing in long lines between the hours of 5pm and 8pm in order to vote. Because of this many are too tired from work and not able to stand in the lines to vote so they abstain from voting. This is a direct infringement on all employees’ right to vote,” Revan said.
He added that it is also a well-known fact that many employers misuse their position of power and influence to direct or instruct employees where to cast their vote. There are even cases, Revan continued, in which doctors use their position to persuade their patients to vote in a certain manner or for a particular party or candidate.
Revan said that abuse of power by employers and professionals with vulnerable clients is a direct attack on the democratic principle of one man one vote and the principle to vote one’s conscience. “This influence of power on the voters by the elite power broker of our society on election day tends to have a major impact on the outcome of the election for parliament. This is a major taint on our democratic process and rights,” he said.
Additionally, he explained that On October 10, 2010 St. Maarten became a constituent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Constitution of St. Maarten enshrines the laws which details the fundamental inalienable rights of each citizen of St. Maarten and describes how the constituent state of St. Maarten is to be governed.
As such, the new status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, by way of the Constitution of St. Maarten, embedded the statutory authority to develop and pass legislation pertaining to the governing of St. Maarten in the body of the Parliament of St. Maarten. The constitution also details that the Parliament of St. Maarten is elected by the citizens of St. Maarten as detailed in the Electoral Law.
“This makes St. Maarten a representative parliamentary system. The Constitution of St. Maarten states ‘declaring the belief in the principle of democracy, the rule of law, the principle of the segregation of powers, the dignity and value of the individual, the entitlement of all persons to fundamental rights and freedom’. Of these fundamental rights is the enfranchisement and thereby, the participation of all eligible citizens as is detailed in the Article 2 of the Electoral Law which states ‘Members of Parliament are elected directly by persons who, on the thirtieth day prior to that of the submission of nominations referred to in Article 21, are residents of Sint Maarten, hold Dutch nationality and on the date of the election, have reached the age of 18.’
Article 16 of the Constitution of St. Maarten in addressing the principle right to equality for all citizens states ‘Everyone in Sint Maarten shall be treated equally in equivalent circumstances. Discrimination on grounds of religion, belief, political persuasion, race, color of skin, sex, language, national or social origins, membership of a national minority, wealth, birth or and any other ground whatsoever is prohibited.’
Therefore, Revan stressed that every eligible citizen of St. Maarten with the right to vote should have an equal and equitable opportunity vote and participate in the electoral process without prohibition, reservation, and or discrimination as every other working or non-working citizen of St. Maarten.
“Many citizens as part of their belief and commitment to the democratic process volunteer their time to partake and assist in the Election Day process. Many of these persons are candidates on a political list, political party members, volunteers at the polling stations, and many others volunteers. Many of these committed citizens are forced to take a vacation day off from work to be able to give their service to the country,” the he said.
“This penalty of a loss of a vacation day is unreasonable and unfair to ask a citizen of this country to bear, in order that they are able to assist in the most important decision-making process for St. Maarten. Volunteering one’s time to ensure free and fair election in St Maarten should not come at a penalty to the volunteer. On the contrary, the right of each and every citizen to partake in the democratic process equally without penalty should be protected,” Revan concluded.